Saturday, April 20, 2013

TIGER Grant Program to be Discussed Tuesday

On Tuesday at noon, the Salem-Keizer Area Transportation Study, our local Metropolitan Planning Organization, will be discussing prospective project applications for the fifth round of Federal TIGER grants.  In this round about $475 million is expected to be available nationwide.

Unfortunately, the list is full of old-school projects looking hungrily at a new-school pot of funding.

The TIGER program was originally part of the "stimulus" package of 2009.  With buzzwords like "sustainability," "multi-modal," and "innovation," the program was intended to spur funding and construction of new-school projects for the 21st century.

According to Transportation for America, four Oregon projects have been funded in previous rounds:

SW Moody in Portland
SW Moody Avenue will be reconstructed in the South Waterfront area, elevating the roadway by 14 feet to cap contaminated soils. It will include three traffic lanes, dual streetcar tracks and pedestrian and bicycle facilities. $23,203,988
EV Corridor along I-5
This project will provide Direct Current Fast Charge Stations for the length of the I-5 corridor in Oregon with gaps not exceeding 50 miles, with a goal of deploying 42 sites. $2,000,000
Coos Bay Rail Line
This will rehabilitate the track structure of the 133-mile Coos Bay Rail Link, which closed in 2007 as a result of deferred maintenance. $13,573,133
Sellwood Bridge completion funding
[T]he final piece of funding for the complete replacement of the Sellwood Bridge. $17,700,000
SKATS is discussing six local possibilities to advance for consideration:
  • McGilchrist Street: ~ $19.5 mil
  • Verda Lane: Combine three projects ~$10.3 mil
  • Kuebler Blvd: I‐5 – Turner Rd: $18.2 mil
  • Gaffin Rd and Cordon Road: ~$12.3 mil
  • Cordon @ OR 22E: ~$31.6 mil
  • OR 22W @ OR 51 [Expressway Management Plan recommended projects]: ~$29.5 mil (2007 dollars)
The urban projects would include sidewalks, bike lanes, and center turn lanes, and the highway projects are more about enlarging interchanges, though they would include bike lanes as required.

But these projects aren't really multi-modal in the way most of the funded projects are. Here are the official primary criteria for grants:
The Department will give priority to projects that have a significant impact on desirable long-term outcomes for the Nation, a metropolitan area, or a region. The following:
  • State of Good Repair: Improving the condition of existing transportation facilities and systems, with particular emphasis on projects that minimize life-cycle costs.
  • Economic Competitiveness: Contributing to the economic competitiveness of the United States over the medium- to long-term.
  • Livability: Fostering livable communities through place-based policies and investments that increase transportation choices and access to transportation services for people in communities across the United States.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Improving energy efficiency, reducing dependence on oil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and benefitting the environment.
  • Safety: Improving the safety of U.S. transportation facilities and systems.
The local projects are of a pretty traditional type - 20th century, not 21st century - auto capacity increases and road widening. They do not score highly on livability and sustainability.  As old-school projects that have hung around on the edges of wish-lists for a while now, they're not easy to get excited about.

Both the funded SW Moody and Sellwood Bridge projects represent substantial commitments to transit, walking, and biking, and exceed minimum standards of circa 1980 bike lanes and sidewalk treatments of the sort Salem has generally proposed.

A stronger project for a TIGER application might include cycle tracks, for example, and the downtown mobility study could generate a proposal that more strongly meets the Economy, Livability, Sustainability, and Safety criteria.  By delivering more people downtown in non-auto trips, it also contributes to a greater life-cycle for the roads.

McGilchrist and the SSA Office Fiasco
Of those on the list, the McGilchrist project would probably be best, but it is about basic legacy remediation for sidewalks and bike lanes, rather than for something more innovative.  It also includes significant widenening, especially the leg from 22nd to 25th, which would go from two lanes to four.

But presumably with the SSA fiasco, it would also have significant congressional support.

At this point SKATS is still discussing, and they aren't formally putting out a list for public comment.  It will be interesting to see how the projects develop as they are baked.

SKATS meets above La Capitale/Andaluz at 100 High St. SE, Suite 200.


Angela Obery said...

It always concerns me when I hear..."enlarging interchanges" and "include bike lanes as required" -- this means more and faster car traffic and an additional paint line that somehow is supposed to make my children safer. I'm not buying it. More bike lanes (as they are currently constructed) won't increase the bike mode share - rather it will just makes life easier for those already on bike. That's good news for the few and brave, but changes nothing for the cautious but willing.

Anonymous said...

Angela, thank you for noticing that a pig entered into a beauty contest with lipstick applied by the sprawl lobby is still a pig. The safety of your children is the furthest thing from the sprawl lobby's concern, and SKATS only serves the sprawl lobby and their prime directive: "Keep Salem Moving (in cars)."

BoB, what is conveyed by "cycle tracks" that is better than "bike paths" or "bikeways"? I still stumble on that bit of jargon every time I see it, and it always produces images of schools of spandex warriors for me (and, I fear, many others), rather than people riding bikes for normal everyday reasons to do normal everyday things.

Salem Breakfast on Bikes said...

Ah, the jargon. Sorry. To me the word "cycle track" conjures Dutch infrastructure and the Dutch people in plain clothes on gramma- and grampa-bikes. To Americans it might sound like a velodrome and speed for the Lancealikes.

Other than being perhaps more specific, with some loose technical specs, than bikeway or bike path, its membership in the jargon club may make it less useful as you suggest.

(One important element is that cycle tracks are generally part of the roadway, though with an element of separation; bike paths are often not part of the roadway or right-of-way. Bikeway seems like the most general term, embracing bike paths, bike lanes, cycle tracks, and even minimally signed routes.)

Anonymous said...

applications are due June 3rd, so there's not much time for course-correction, unfortunately.

The DOT blog post does mention "redesigned interstate highway intersections" by the way. Ugh.